The Prime Video series Upload stole viewers’ hearts with its combination of humor, heart and commentary on our tech-obsessed society, and now Greg Daniels is bringing the show back for a second season that’s going to continue building out the world (virtual and otherwise) and making audiences laugh.
Daniels is one of the most prolific and talented creators in TV comedy; among the shows he’s been involved with are the animated classic King of the Hill, which he co-created with Mike Judge, as well as NBC staples The Office and Parks & Recreation. His series have run for decades and been critically acclaimed to boot. So what does he think is the secret of a great sitcom? Is there anything that’s common to his successes?
“There are principles of storytelling that are pretty longstanding, that go back to Aristotle pointing them out the first time. For instance, it’s more interesting if the characters have a lot at stake and have to surmount obstacles. That’s just part of storytelling, I think, because you picture yourself in the circumstances of the story,” he reflected. “You wonder what you would do—if you would choose that or that, or if you would gravitate towards that person or the other one. And it’s fun to enter into another world.”
As for his current series, “This world of Upload is a near-future world, so it’s very plausible for people to imagine that it could be happening in a couple of years,” he added. “That gives you a little bit of extra relatability, I think. Makes it a little bit more intense.”
Upload also boasts a cast that includes people with great comedic experience. Kevin Bigley, who portrays Luke, is both an actor and a writer who’s been part of several comedy projects. Zainab Johnson, who plays Aleesha, is also a stand-up comedian. Especially since most second seasons have shows writing more toward their actors, how much did Greg and his team write toward the established abilities of these performers?
“You definitely start to realize who can carry a scene and who is very funny and what their strengths are. And so we’ve been writing more towards our strengths for sure,” he said. “I love the cast…When we got them, I [felt] like they’re not that widely known. I love the idea of bringing a new ensemble to an audience, so that you can feel like, ‘Oh, my goodness. Ingrid is so perfect as Ingrid. I haven’t really seen her before, but I know that she’s the perfect Ingrid,’ or whatever it is.”
Is there a sense, after so many shows and so many years, that he’s developed for when something is funny? Or is comedy still an instinctual art? Greg explained how the process of TV production refines a joke or a moment, so it’s not an instantaneous thing.
“Sometimes you think of something in the writer’s room and it is the funniest thing you’ve ever thought of. And then by the time it goes through the prep, it’s a little diminished from how you imagined, but other people seem to love it. And then other times, the process elevates it,” he said. “You have a line and you thought it was just a way to get from one sentence to the next. And then the actor puts so much cool intention behind it, that it becomes a huge laugh.
“You never really know what part is going to hit the best from the script phase. But that’s what an editing room is made for,” he continued. “You go into the editing room and you only use the stuff that works and that came out the best. And that way, the show has a sparkle to it that just goes from idea to idea to idea. So that’s my technique. I over-produce, and then I boil it down in the editing room.”
Upload Season 2 premieres this Friday, March 11 on Prime Video.
Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.